Tag Archives: Lord Elgin

The Elgin Hotel

Today we were back at the Hippodrome picture palace to see Journey’s End,  an excellent ‘must see’ for all those who think of war as a worthwhile endeavour … we were both a bit emotional at the end. Afterwards we decided to extend our homeward journey via one of our favourite scenic routes. Also, having had a wee nostalgia trip in our previous post we thought we might as well persist with the theme … but this time the images are coming from the gents toilet at the Elgin Hotel … too much information??Nostalgic posters at the Elgin Hotel, Charlestown, Fife Admittedly, even at the time, these images would have been deemed ‘romanticised’ but once again we think it would be interesting to see if the artist could portray life today with such a degree of misty eyed innocence. Talking of things not being quite what they seem, we are not actually in Elgin, that fine highland town where you might reasonably expect to find such a hotel … our scenic route did not stretch that far! We are actually in Charlestown on the northern shore of the river Forth, only a few miles from Edinburgh. The Earls of Elgin have owned everything within sight of this place for centuries so the hotel takes it’s name from them. They even had Charlestown built in the shape of the letter E … but hey, when you are an over privileged toff with more money than sense you can do that sort of thing!  The 7th Earl, Lord Elgin, was perhaps the most well known in that it was he who, in 1803, stripped the Parthenon of its marble sculptures  because he wanted them to decorate Broomhall House, his home on the outskirts of the village. They, of course, became known as the Elgin Marbles and they continue to cause as much controversy today as they did back then. Such was the fury at the time, Lord Byron carved ‘Quod non fecerunt Gothi, fecerunt Scoti‘ in the rock at the Acropolis, meaning ‘What the Goths spared, the Scots destroyed’ … not sure who was the worst vandal though? For what it’s worth, we think that Britain should do the decent thing and return the Marbles to their rightful place … but then again, when was the last time Britain did the decent thing?

Snowdrops at the Elgin Hotel, Charlestown, Fife
snowdrops … signs of spring at The Elgin Hotel

Anyway, Charlestown itself is a lovely village which kind of belies the fact that it was once a shipbuilding port and even functioned as the ship-breaking centre for the boats of the German Imperial Fleet brought down from Scapa Flow at the end of World War I. Internal view of the Elgin Hotel, Charlestown, FifeBefore we move on to the important business of scones, perhaps there is just time for a teansy bit of tittle tattle. Controversy obviously follows the Elgins, because In 1990, the current Lord Elgin’s son, Lord Bruce married one Amanda Movius, a 23 year old Alaskan with reportedly ‘pop star’ looks. She had been in Scotland on holiday but, after a whirlwind romance, ended up as Lady Bruce with a vast baronial estate and a 30,00 square foot mansion. Having embarked on several extramarital affairs however and setting up a failed clothes shop in Edinburgh she fled Scotland leaving behind a mountain of debt. Back in America she continued with a life of deceit and dishonesty until last year she was eventually jailed in Texas for credit card fraud, drink driving, possession of marijuana and obstructing the highway. We tell you this simply to illustrate that, heaven forbid, aristocrats are just the same as the rest of us, just a lot more privileged … not to gossip you understand! Enough of all that, what about the scones? Scones at the Elgin Hotel, Charlestown, FifeUnfortunately, mid-afternoon, we seemed to be the only people around. Nevertheless we were very well looked after by a couple of ladies who soon had us sitting in front of the fire and supplying us with tea, coffee and a couple of fruit scones. ‘Disappointing’ is the word that best described them. They were presented with a basket of prepackaged jams and butter … and the cream was scooshie … arrgghh!

A whisky timer at the Elgin Hotel, Charlestown, Fife
whisky timer

We enjoyed them however because after walking in the icy Siberian blast of the Beast from the East it was nice to be sitting here in front of a nice fire with hot drinks and some scones .. even these scones! On the bar they had two whisky bottles made up like a giant egg timer. No one seems to know why it’s there or where it had came from. Apparently it has got slower over the years and currently, the time for one bottle to empty into the other, stands at 67 minutes … fine if you like your eggs really hard boiled!

KY11 3EE      tel: 01383 872257       The Elgin Hotel

ps: a photo has been sent in from our Emirates correspondents. It is taken from a menu in Abu Dhabi and among the items in their ‘Arabic High Tea’ is a scone. An Arab sconeWe had no idea that Arabs ate scones but you learn something every day … many thanks to our correspondents for that.  They did not furnish any information on what it was like, we will have to have a word … though at 113 dirhams (£22) it’s not exactly cheap. Labneh, by the way, is a kind of Greek style yoghurt … think we’ll stick with strawberry jam!

The Orangery – Ham House

FOR SALE des-res in Ham – Thames side location just a short walk from Richmond … price £1,131! Okay, that was in 1650, just 40 years after it was built by by Sir Thomas Vavasour, goodness knows what it would be worth today … only Russian oligarchs need apply. Back then however it seemed to be mainly Scots who had the money. Firstly it was William Murray, 1st Earl of Dysart, then Lord Elgin, then John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale, then Archibald Campbell, 1st Duke of Argyll … in fact several Dukes of Argyll were born here?? The last Earl of Dysart, the 9th, died in 1935 leaving almost £5million but with no direct heirs so in 1948 it passed to the National Trust … and hence they let riffraff like us in. The Orangery Café at Ham HouseThe interior of the house is supposed to be spectacular but we didn’t bother going in … scones we were after! The gardens are extensive and beautifully manicured and apparently the oldest Christ’s thorn bush in the country is situated right here on the tea terrace outside the orangery. Not old enough to have provided anything for the crucifixion … but old. The orangery itself is said to be the oldest in the country but then again, the country is not exactly stacked out with orangeries. It was a lovely day for sitting out so once we had acquired everything from the self service counter that’s what we did. A scone at the Orangery Café at Ham HouseThe scones were good and were accompanied by the ubiquitous Rhodda’s Cornish Cream that we are always going on about. Down here it seems much more acceptable than it does in the Highlands of Scotland where there is plenty of local cream. There was also ‘National Trust’ jam and a pat of butter. We were here with our daughter who lives not far away from here. Before we realised what was happening she had done her scone cream first … arrgghh, dragged up!

A cream first scone at the Orangery Café at Ham House
What a mess!

Nevertheless, no matter which way you prepared these scones they were very good, not topscones but very good. All in all this was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon. A friend from Maryland who had stayed with us some months back had become fascinated by the word ‘dreich’ … which in Scottish means ‘inclement’ or ‘pretty miserable’. He emailed to see if it could be applied to hurricanes or if we had another word for that. We had to let him know that ‘dreich’ was about as serious as our weather gets so, no, we didn’t have another word. It made us realise, though, with Hurricane Irma reaking havoc all through the Caribbean, how lucky we are to have the weather we have … even though all we do is complain about it.

TW10 7RS     tel: 020 8940 1950      The Orangery TA